Alfred Binet, the IQ test inventor didn’t believe that IQ test scales qualify to measure your intelligence. He neither invented the term “intelligence quotient” (IQ) nor supported its numerical expression. After completing the foremost IQ test scale, he proclaims:
"I have not sought in these lines to sketch a method of measuring, in the physical sense of the word, but only a method of classification of individuals. The procedures which I have indicated will, if perfected, come to classify a person before or after such another person or such another series of persons; but I do not believe that one may measure one of the intellectual aptitudes in the sense that one measures length or a capacity."
Despising his forewarning, most of the famous IQ scales claim not only to measure your intelligence but also express it in a normalized number. The inventor of the IQ test believed that intelligence comes with genes but can shine with education, environment and culture, unless you are mentally impaired. He didn’t believe that intelligence is a measurable fixed entity.
It all started in France...
Alfred Binet got his degree in law and doctorate in the natural sciences. However, he was passionate self-taught student of psychology. He spent most of his free time in observing mental development of his two daughters and mentally retarded children in a local clinic.
In 1904, he was commissioned by the French government to design a method to segregate mentally subnormal children from the normal ones. The government had made education compulsory for all and wanted to provide special education to the needy children.
The IQ test inventor was assisted by another psychologist Theopile Simon, for which the system is called “Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale”. It focused upon daily life problem solving capabilities of the children in schools.
He wanted to measure the mental age (the current level of cognitive mental development) of the subjects to classify them as normal or special children. He tested comprehension, vocabulary and memory of the examinees vis-à-vis their age-fellow.
He was aware of the illegitimate use of his scale. He warned:
“The scale, properly speaking, does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not super-posable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.”
IQ Tests in Germany
William Stern, German psychologist, translated and adopted the “Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale” in Germany. However, he observed that mental age of a normal child can be different from his age-fellows. He said if mental age of a child is divided by his chronological age, the result shall express ratio of his intelligence in his age group.
However, he was consonant with Alfred Binet that IQ test scales can’t measure human intelligence. He states:
“No series of tests, however skillfully selected it may be, does reach the innate intellectual endowment, stripped of all complications, but rather this endowment is conjunction with all influences to which the examinee has been subjected up to the moment of testing.”
IQ Tests in the United States
H.H. Goddard, the father of American Eugenics (A movement to breed only the ‘intelligent’ (right) people and curtail reproduction of ‘idiots’...), translated and adopted Binet-Simon IQ test scale in the United States. He was greatly influenced with Darwin’s evolution theory and believed intelligence a fixed measurable entity which people get by their birth. He used IQ tests scales to prove validity of his philosophy.
Another Eugenic, Lewis Terman invented the term “intelligence quotient” (IQ) and normalized Stern’s intelligence ratio by multiplying it with 100.
With dawn of World War-I, the United States required a lot number of peoples to fill different vacancies. However, there was no quick systematic method to screen candidates before placing them on important positions. The government asked Lewis Terman and Robert M. Yerkes to build two IQ test scales to screen literate and illiterate candidates for the available posts.
The scales were built within the next six months. Before World War-I ended more than two million people had gone through these IQ test scales. Later on these psychologists developed National Intelligence Test in 1920 and Scholastic Aptitude test (SAT) in 1926. These IQ test scales were translated, adapted and standardized in other countries with much more impact than Binet-Simon scale alone could make.
The use of IQ test scales has been increasing in the 21st century, in education, career and clinics. However, the testers should get rid of Eugenics philosophy to make them a useful tool. They must not forget what Alfred Binet had suggested:
“Some recent thinkers…(have claimed) that an individual’s
intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity that can’t be
increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism; we
must try to demonstrate that it is founded on nothing.” (Quoted in "The
Mis-measure of Man", Gould)
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